Thursday, October 08, 2009

Cannery Row

Like the intro of news reports, the first lines of novels, novellas have always fascinated me. The writer may not have actually spontaneously written them, and may have laboured over them. Nevertheless, what lines...

John Steinbeck wrote a number of very famous novels like Pulitzer winning The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden, but my favourites are his novellas - a form in between a long novel and a short story. Here's how he begins Cannery Row:

"Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, 'whores, pimps, gamblers and sons of bitches,' by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, 'Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,' and he would have meant the same thing."

Do you remember any other such examples of opening lines?
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